For the past year and a half, thousands more Massachusetts youth have had free breakfast and lunch at schools statewide. As a professional in the anti-hunger space, I can attest to the importance of this vital resource for struggling families who now face an extreme benefit “cliff” when federal waivers enabling schools to serve meals to all students dissolve at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

According to Children’s HealthWatch, food insecurity costs Massachusetts $2.4 billion every year. But we know one thing that works: school meals for all. School meals are one of the most powerful tools for ending food insecurity among children. California and Maine recently passed monumental legislation to make school meals for every student a reality. Allowing all students to receive free school meals will end the stigma around students’ economic status and ensure all youth are hunger-free and ready to learn. Providing school meals is a proven way to increase students’ attendance, improve behavior and academic achievement, and reduce childhood hunger and tardiness. California and Maine have shown us what is possible in the fight against childhood food insecurity. School meals for all would be a game-changer for our state. We need our Massachusetts representatives and senators to pass each bodies’ Act Relative to Universal School Meals during this legislative session. Hungry children can’t wait.

Raina Searles, assistant director of program communication for Project Bread

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